Questions to Consider Before Starting a Mobile Project

Author: Margaret Lee, Senior Director, Product Management, Oracle Fusion Middleware

Enterprise mobility was a hot topic  in 2012, and it will be even more popular in 2013.   Companies are interested in this mainly for three reasons:  building mobile apps to better connect with their customers; mobile enabling existing back-end applications for their employees, partners, and customers; dealing with the security and manageability issues of employees bringing their own personal smart devices to access corporate systems at work.  The tendency for many companies is to view these mobile projects separately.  This would result in proliferation of development and deployment technologies, and may un-do much of the good IT standardization and consolidation efforts that has started to bear fruit in terms of development and maintenance cost savings.  Therefore, companies should think through many of these business, architecture, and development questions before embarking on "quick-and-dirty" mobile projects.   An ounce of advanced planning and forethought would save a pound of back-end management headaches.

Here are some questions to consider before starting a mobile project.  This is by no means an exhaustive list

I. Business related questions

  1. How deeply do you envision mobility being embedded as part of your employee's daily work processes?  Will it be largely productivity based (e.g. check email, quick approvals) or will it be pervasive across their work processes, i.e. regular transactional interactions with back end systems, communications, collaborations, etc
  2. Depend on answer to #1, will you be mostly focused on a BYOD strategy or is there possibility of providing corporate mobile devices?
  3. If you have a BYOD strategy, how will you handle employees calling IT Support, with a variety of devices, models, OS patch levels, etc?
  4. What are some first use cases, e.g. executive business dashboards? Inventory look up and placing supplier orders? Employee time entry and schedule planning?
  5. If you are planning to provide mobile access to backend ERP systems, would you consider using pre-built mobile apps from vendors such as Oracle or SAP?  Do these pre-built apps fulfill your business needs or will you need to customize and extend them?

II. Development related questions

  1. What are the mobile OS platforms you plan to support, iOS, Andoid, Windows? others?
  2. Do you plan to build native to supported OS, or a hybrid model?  Will it be burdensome to support 2 different code bases for different OS?  3 different code bases or more?
  3. How important is being "native" to a platform to you?
  4. If you have looked at  pre-built ERP mobile apps, do you need to extend them?  Do you need to build  mobile apps outside of ERP's offerings, e.g. mobile enable customizations for extensions?  If yes, how would you do that?
  5. What development tools & frameworks you have considered? Oracle ADF Mobile? Sencha? Appcelerator? etc
  6. What is the skill set of your developers?  or will you be outsourcing this to a mobile development company?

III. Architecture questions

  1. Have you considered how to architect mobile apps you plan to build, thick client (more logic and some data on device) or thin client (everything back on the server)?
  2. What are some of your security and access control concerns and requirements?
  3. What are some integration challenges?  What type of interfaces are there on the back end, direct database access? web services?  What is the read/write ratio anticipated?
  4. Do you anticipate more processing load required on your back-end application and ERP module as result of mobile-enabling part of their functionalities

Undoubtedly answering these questions will generate more.  Eventually, enterprises, particularly large ones, will find themselves looking for a mobile development and deployment platform.  A mobile platform helps to solve many of these challenges wholly, rather than piece-meal.  A mobile platform that aligns with your existing IT infrastructure would be even better.  Oracle Fusion Middleware is such a platform.  In future blog entries, I will describe how Fusion Middleware's ADF Mobile, Integration, Security, Application Server, and Management form a complete platform for Enterprise Mobility. 

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